Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Queen of Katwe Wins

It is not often we stop at a theater service desk and thank them for a movie. But we loved the movie Queen of Katwe that much! It deserves an Oscar! We recommend you go see this movie while it is still around.

Jesus’s brother James told his listeners that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27 NRSV). Queen of Katwe is about Phiona Mutesi, the daughter of a poor widow, who is coached by Robert Katende, an orphan who himself has worked hard to become an engineer in Uganda. However, not having familial connections, he is working for a Christian ministry as he waits for a position. In this ministry, he serves children they call “The Pioneers.” We are pleasantly delighted to see the group and individuals regularly praying. The widow Harriet is a strong woman who remains poor because she chooses to be moral. A poor woman, she is urged to seek a man who becomes (temporarily) her “Sugar Daddy” or else she will have to continue to persevere in a life of great difficulties. Although her oldest daughter succumbs, the widow steadfastly maintains her ethical standards in her worst of times, and eventually forgives her daughter who has fallen. In contrast to her sister, Phiona is able to rise past her circumstances by excelling in chess. Chess strategy becomes an archetype for life strategies: teaching one to plan ahead, not give up too soon, learn how a small person can become significant, and not be intimidated by opponents. God has gifted Phiona. As a result, the Pioneers’ ministry supports her determination and hard work, thus, in the end, enabling Phiona’s success. The message the ministry and her chess prowess underscores is she belonged not in poverty, but where her capabilities could take her. This is a woman’s empowerment movie that will also be enjoyed by men. Queen of Katwe is a magnificent and truly encouraging movie and is based on a true story.

For Aida, it was also a memory journey back to her early years in the Dominican Republic. Although she has never been to Uganda, she recognized many of the practices in the movie from 60 years ago in the Dominican Republic, apparently having come from the African context: poor houses with tin roofs and dirt floors, deep gullies by the sidewalk to allow passage of sudden heavy rains, women carrying food to sell on their heads, outside markets with sellers of fruits and vegetables, vendors coming to car doors. For a few hours, the viewer enters into a different but intriguing world (without having to pay thousands of dollars for airfare and hotel and then merely seeing tourist sites in the guide’s places adapted for tourists). We are reminded that visiting orphans and widows may be a costly cross-cultural enterprise, as it was for the coach. The poor orphan and widow may be living in another environment than their wealthier Christian sister or brother. But, without entering this other world we cannot practice a worship that is pure and undefiled. This movie helps us see that truth.

Aida and Bill

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